I’ve heard a number of disturbing stories from the NYSSMA Festival that happened at AMD Middle School in Ossining, NY, on April 26 & 27.  I was not there, and did not witness them in person, but my students were very upset by them.  In the hopes that this could be a “teachable moment” I share what has been related to me here.

Several students had issues checking in, and were given incorrect information.  One student was told she needed two copies of the score to perform a solo at the festival level.  Not true, thank goodness she stuck to her guns and persuaded the registrar to let her through.  Another student was told their piece wasn’t in the NYSSMA manual, only to have another registrar discover that it it was listed on a manual errata sheet that registrar #1 didn’t have.  As NYSSMA adjudicators we are required to have the current manual, its a shame that someone wasn’t checking to make sure everyone was properly informed.

– Where were the music stands for multiple students performing in groups?  One of my ensembles had to stack a chair on top of a desk, then fill the chair with text books in order to make a second music stand.  They were strong musicians and weren’t flustered by this, but I would imagine many students would have been.  If the host school doesn’t have enough stands, could each adjudicator bring a folding one with them?

Erratic behavior by an All-State judge: this story comes from an gifted accompanist whom I trust implicitly.  Both the accompanist and my student thought the judge had told them to begin their piece with a nod.  When they started playing, he interrupted them with an angry “I didn’t tell you to start playing!”, and they waited several minutes while he rearranged pencils on his desk.  Of course when they started over my student was horribly flustered and her performance suffered greatly from it.  All-State judging is the most demanding job at any festival – one judge needs to be the barometer for every performance.  Was this judge exhausted, maybe forfeited a break to hear another hopeful?  Nonetheless, the shortcomings of his surroundings never should have been taken out on a student.

NYSSMA is supposed to be a chance for students to shine, and show off their accomplishments from the year.  I know many fine NYSSMA judges who take their jobs seriously and commit to judging festivals months in advance because of their love of working with the students.  What a shame that these seemingly avoidable situations occurred, and in many cases affected student scores.  I give this festival a 21 out of 28.

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